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55,000 HDB flats to be upgraded from next year

55,000 HDB flats to be upgraded from next year.

Plan part of rejuvenation efforts costing over $1 billion for public and private estates

A total of 55,000 Housing Board (HDB) flats will be upgraded under the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) from next year onwards, as part of wider rejuvenation efforts that will cost the Government more than $1 billion. The plans, which involve sprucing up both public and private housing estates, will take place "over the next few years", Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

Speaking at the annual MND Huddle at Fort Canning Park, he said the works will provide support for industry partners in the current economic climate. The projects will also offer "a healthy pipeline of public sector projects", providing opportunities for consultants and contractors here, Mr Wong said.

Details on which estates will be selected and when works will begin will be announced later. A key project for public housing estates is the HIP for flats built between 1987 and 1997, Mr Wong said. Previously available only for flats built up to 1986, the expansion of the programme was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally last year.

Mr Wong said: "We will start with a first batch of 55,000 flats which are already 30 or more years old. We will schedule the remaining 175,000 flats progressively, when the flats are about 30 years old. We should be able to complete the upgrading over the next 10 or more years."

Fully subsidised upgrades involve improvements within the flat, for example, fixing spalling concrete and replacing waste pipes. Home owners can also opt for other improvements like bathroom upgrading at subsidised rates. Since the HIP was introduced in 2007, more than half of the 320,000 eligible flats under the 1986 age band have been upgraded. Collectively, the Government expects to spend more than $4 billion to upgrade these flats.

As for the Estate Upgrading Programme (EUP), which caters to private estates, the next round will be launched later this year, said Mr Wong, who is also Second Minister for Finance.

In November 2016, then Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said that since the EUP started in 2000, about $187 million had been spent on upgrading 63 private estates, including Serangoon Gardens, Mount Sinai and Braddell Heights. Mr Wong did not say how the $1 billion to be spent over the next few years will be split between public and private estates. MND is also changing the way it goes about the upgrading projects, he said.

Currently, town councils or government agencies work with consultants to draw up plans that are then presented to the residents. Feedback is collated and plans fine-tuned before the work starts, he said.

"The process is not bad, but certainly it can be improved. We want to involve residents at the early stages of the project, even in the design and planning stages. This will take more time and effort, but I think it will be worthwhile. Residents will have a stronger stake in their estate and they will have a greater sense of ownership of their common spaces," the minister added.

It is all part of the wider emp-hasis on partnerships between the Government and Singaporeans, he added. "Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat emphasised this when he launched the Singapore Together movement earlier in June this year".

Mr Wong said. "All of you know that we are not done building Singapore. There are major plans that we have in the coming years, which will take not only years, but decades, to come to fruition," he said."So, we want to strengthen our partnership with Singaporeans, with all of you, in the way we design and implement these plans."

Adapted From The Straits Times, Oct 12 2019